The 2019 Minnesota legislature amended the definition of “hemp,” a legal category of the cannabis plant. And though hemp has not been illegal “marijuana” for years in Minnesota; this new law changes the legal status of Hemp-CBD products.
Before the amendment, as long as the source was a hemp plant; THC was legal in any amount, at any concentration level.
And that’s why the early 2019 criminal charges against Lanesboro, Minnesota hemp farmer Luis Hummel should be dismissed; if they haven’t been already. According to news media reports, a prosecutor was charging Hummel with criminal sale and possession; for hemp-CBD oil with over 0.3% THC. But under the law at that time, it was not a crime to have hemp-CBD oil over 0.3% THC. And that’s good news, at least for Mr. Hummel.
The bad news? The 2019 legislature amended the law, effective July 1,2019. So now, hemp-CBD oil no longer qualifies as legal “hemp” under Minnesota law, unless 0.3% THC or less.
Why? Read on.
Hemp-CBD: plant vs. extracts
The 2019 legislature amended Minnesota Statutes 2018, section 18K.02, subdivision 3, to read:
Subd. 3. “Industrial hemp” means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of the plant, whether growing or not, including the plant’s seeds, and all the plant’s derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis. Industrial hemp is not marijuana as defined in section 152.01, subdivision 9.Minn. Stat. §18K.02, Subd. 3 (2019)
The underlined language above is new.
This changes the law for hemp-CBD. So, the new law now sets a limit of not more than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis; for “the plant’s seeds, and all the plant’s derivatives, extracts.”
But the old law did not.
And that’s why under the pre-July 1, 2019 version of the law:
- any amount of THC, and
- any concentration level up to 100% THC was legal;
as long as it was from a cannabis plant with “not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”
So, as long as it came from a hemp plant, THC was legal. See our related article: CBD, Hemp & Law in Minnesota for details.
Problems in the law remain for Hemp-CBD farmers
Minnesota state and federal policy-makers seem to agree, that hemp-CBD products should be broadly legal and available to consumers. And they are still developing a civil regulatory framework. But the policy intent is clear. So we, at least, don’t want hemp-CBD products to be a “crime.”
Minnesota’s new hemp definition fails to account for the hemp-CBD product manufacturing process. And the new law seems to create an unintended trap for Minnesota’s Ag community.
Here is a simplified version of the hemp-CBD product manufacturing process:
- Farmers grow cannabis plants with “not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis” (“hemp”); then,
- Process the hemp to extract the flower oil, which has a usable concentration of CBD and other cannabinoids: then,
- Dilute the hemp oil concentrate to ensure the consumer product is in compliance with a 0.3% THC legal threshold.
The problem? Though steps one and three above are within the 0.3% THC limit, step two is not. Because making hemp-CBD oil may require the intermediate step, at 10 times or more the 0.3% THC consumer-product threshold.
Simple solution: Hemp-CBD
The best solution would be legislative. The new laws should clarify that Minnesota manufacturers can lawfully have an intermediate extract from hemp with over 0.3% THC; as long as it is not for consumer products.
So the legislature should amend Minnesota’s law again. And the legislature can amend the laws to make clear that hemp producers may have intermediate materials over .3% THC; as long as no consumer end-product is over 0.3% THC. So this can prevent miscarriages of justice for Minnesota’s law-abiding hemp farmers and agricultural community.
Until then, hemp farmers may need to get it done out of state. And this needlessly drains agricultural money out of the Minnesota economy, costing jobs and reduced tax revenues.
For more on the 2019 hemp law change, see our CBD Now Legal in Minnesota
About the author
He is also a Board Member of the non-profit Minnesota NORML.
And Minneapolis Attorney Thomas Gallagher regularly teaches on criminal law and cannabis law topics, including Hemp-CBD.